Fast forward to race day when I managed to achieve a four-minute personal best finish time and thoroughly enjoyed everything about the race. Over the next few days of recovery, I found myself reflecting on how my training and race day had differed from previous longer distance races. Thinking about what to I added to my running mix to make it a success...
1. Swapping one run per week for cross-training:
In preparing for my first half-marathon and Around the Bay 30K I'd run four days per week. This summer, I swapped one running day with an 18K bike ride. Each week was rounded out with two 5.5K walks and a rest day. I believe the cross training really helped my cardio and muscle fitness while reducing the risk for injury from running exclusively. I loved the variety of my week and my body did as well. In a perfect world, I would include strength training as well.
2. Each run had a purpose:
Last year I found my head spinning with all the training plans I studied. Tempo, hill, long, interval or fartlek runs. When it came right down to my actual runs, I found all of them averaging out to a similar pace. This year, I set a simple yet specific goal for each run day. Tuesdays were for speed work at the track. Thursdays were easy. And Saturday or Sunday was my long distance run. This really helped me focus on my goal when I left the house and benefit from different paces.
3. Lower weekly mileage:
In removing one run day a week from my schedule, my weekly milage total took a hit. In the end however, I think the cross training and specific goals of my runs benefited more than the extra kilometers would have.
4. Less races leading up to my goal race day:
Last year I participated in several races of increasing distances leading up to my half marathon. The good thing about this was that it gave me confidence that I would be able to complete the distance. That being said, adding tapering and recovery into my training schedule often left me scratching my head or leaving it out entirely. Looking back, I am pretty sure I was over-training. This year, I kept my race plan very open leading up to race day, which made planning much easier.
At the race expo on Friday, I caught part of Lanni Marchant's presentation. A woman in the crowd asked her what she ate leading up to the big races. Everyone listened eagerly as she described how her food in the days before the race progressively became more white. She told us to forget about whole grain this and that and instead think of it as the Wonder Bread diet. I laughed, but it stuck with me. The next day I followed Lanni's advice. Bagels, pretzels and pasta. I also sipped on eLoad and water throughout the day.
6. Run fuel:
I tested a lot of run fuel items this past year to arrive at what I used on race day. Breakfast at about 6:30 am was a plain white bagel, jam and PB. I sipped on a water bottle mixed with eLoad up to about 30 minutes before the race. An Endurance Tap while in the corral, 5-10 minutes before starting. 2 or 3 Honey Stingers and an eLoad disk and water at each aid station. I felt a bit gross and didn't want the Honey Stingers at around 15km so skipped them until the next station. In training, I had alternated the disks with the chews that were spaced out a bit more, but I quickly realized I didn't want to waste time getting something from my pocket every kilometer of the race. Overall though I think these items were good for me and I can fine tune the amounts and timing with further tests.
7. Race day gear:
I believe that my choices of clothing were bang-on for this race. There was a huge amount of worry among runners when the forecast predicted race day temperatures of around -1 degree, with a chance of flurries. I knew the excitement, nerves and standing around would mean I was going to be cold before the race anyway. But it was during the race that was most important. I chose a long sleeve tech shirt, my absolute favourite running capris and a pair of thin tech gloves. I cut up a pair of leggings to wear on my arms prior to the start. I was shivering by the time we were in the corrals, but as soon as I started running, it was absolutely perfect. I also chose to wear my hydration pack during the race. I only had about 350 mls of water in it to have with my eLoad disks or if I absolutely needed. Having the familiarity of where my iPhone and fuel were really helped. I was also able to remove my gloves for a bit when I got warm and stuff them in a pocket without a pause in my step. I also checked a bag containing super cozy clothes and compression socks which I changed into within 20 minutes of finishing the race. This paid off as I wound up being outside for about four hours after the race.
I've run most of my races with music. I have a 'race' playlist on my iPhone that I made up for the 2015 Toronto Yonge Street 10K that I save to play only during races. Since I was with friends, I didn't start my music until I had crossed the start mat. When I did, I found my volume was higher than I usually listen to it. Not wanting to pull my phone out of my pack pocket to fix it, I decided to leave it. It wound up being highly motivating, and a really great distraction for the part of the race.
9. Frame of mind:
In the days prior to race day I was excited and felt positive about the upcoming race. I found my mindset a little different than usual for races. I was calm and confident about my abilities. Confident about how much I was going to enjoy the day. I coordinated meeting my running friends before the start of the race. Those hugs and smiles further added to the good feelings. I even remember smiling at different times during the race because I truly felt good and was enjoying it so much. The only time my mindset changed was in the last 3 or 4 kilometers. I have to wonder if the struggle was a result of my mind remembering how I struggled the past two years, thus I accepted having a harder.
10. Running my own race:
This past summer I learned that I have a hard time running with others due to not being used to chatting and running at someone else's pace. I easily get caught up but for me it's like going out in a race too fast...I inevitably crash! I line up in the corrals with two very dear friends, but explained that I was going to let them go ahead once we started the race. The words "Run your own race," popped into my head in the first kilometer. As I ran, I continued saying this to myself. As I ran down Bathurst, I saw the pace bunnies nearby I tried to pace myself with them. When I found myself starting to get frustrated, feeling like I was chasing them down the words returned. Run your own race. I forced myself to look away from the bunnies were and pace myself. In past races I've always been aware of runners nearby. Tracking whether people were running my pace, how they were running--and especially if they were doing something distracting like struggling, huffing and puffing or talking to each other. Run your own race. While I made an effort not to dart around people, if someone was distracting--I moved to allow myself a clear mind path.
A good race doesn't just mean running the tangents, maintaining your pace and saving energy for a final kick. Think about your recipe for success and start adding the ingredients to your running mix!